Russian police arrest dozens of anti-Putin protesters

More than 100 arrested in St Petersburg at demonstration against Vladimir Putin's expected candidacy in 2018.

    Police detain an elderly activist during an anti-Putin rally in St Petersburg on Saturday [Olga Maltseva/AFP]
    Police detain an elderly activist during an anti-Putin rally in St Petersburg on Saturday [Olga Maltseva/AFP]

    More than 100 activists were arrested in St Petersburg on Saturday as hundreds of Russians turned out to protest against President Vladimir Putin's expected candidacy in elections next year.

    Demonstrators rallied across several cities under the slogan "We're sick of him."

    The protests were called by the Open Russia movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

    About 200 people gathered in central St Petersburg, according to AFP news agency. OVD-Info, which monitors political repression, said more than 110 protesters were hauled away by riot police.

    "Police officers ended the actions ... of 100 people who continued to trouble the public order," St Petersburg police said, without confirming if they had been arrested.

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    Putin, 64, has not announced whether he plans to run for president again. He has dominated Russian politics for 17 years and enjoys high popularity ratings.

    "Putin is an usurper. He has to finally go," said one of the protesters, 35-year-old Anton Danilov, in St Petersburg.

    "Everything is bad. Education, health - everything has been destroyed. I want changes," said Galina Abramova, 57. 

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    In Moscow, a similar sized rally remained peaceful as activists lined up under the gaze of riot police to hand over handwritten appeals for Putin to stand down from running in 2018.

    "I don't want Putin to stand in the next elections," said Anna Bazarova, a 16-year-old student queuing up to hand in her petition. "Our main problem is that we can't change those in power."

    Police said 250 people showed up in Moscow, the Interfax news agency reported, while Maria Baronova, an Open Russia activist, said at least 500 people had handed over a petition.

    OVD-Info reported more arrests in other cities, including 20 in Tula and 14 in Kemerovo.

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    Saturday's protests came after opposition leader Alexei Navalny organised the largest unauthorised rally of recent years in Moscow on March 26. Police detained about 1,000 people, including Navalny.

    Authorities have stepped up pressure on Khodorkovsky's Open Russia in recent days.

    The General Prosecutor's Office ruled on Wednesday that the activity of its British arm was "undesirable" and accused it and other organisations of trying to discredit the election.

    On Thursday, police searched Open Russia's Moscow offices. Activists said they confiscated 100,000 blank appeal forms that the foundation had intended to distribute to people encouraging them to call for Putin to quit.

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    SOURCE: News agencies


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